Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Buddhism and Christianity aren't the same thing...

or, "Christianity is defective."

There. I said it. So, for that matter, is Judaism, Hinduism, Islam, Taoism, atheism, and any other belief or lack thereof to the degree in which it does encourage its followers to try any means possible to minimize dukkha, and specifically suffering, and especially insofar as they promote the idea that there should be attachments to the self, at least in my experience. That said, to a certain extent at times Buddhism might not be Buddhism, at least in my experience.

This idea had been in my mind for a few days now, especially after discussions with a Christian, but I was reminded of it by this post at the Danny Fisher blog. So much of what passes for "Charity" with a big C under Christianity, to me, does have tinges of greed and pride mixed in with it. This is not to say we shouldn't help the unfortunate, the poor, the Palestinians and the whales. We must. But the minute we think we're getting something out of the deal, we probably are, and any merit associated with such charity evaporates. In particular, in religious traditions which posit a personal deity overseeing everything, any charitable action requested by this deity is not a "charity" at all, but part of a quid pro quo of a relationship with this deity. A true charitable action would, as Jesus said, have the right hand not know what the left is doing, metaphorically. But this is absurdly difficult to the point of being nakedly impossible if there's an omnipresent deity.

The only remedy, I think, is to view the self as a construct of a particular confluence of form, feeling, thought, volition and consciousness. But that goes against the Christian concept of a soul.

A Christian might reply that I might suffer for eternity if his god weren't sated. The fact that this really saying "God damn you" with a smile aside, I have no evidence for that, but I do know, from experience, that when I ignore the construct in favor of those who are sharing my existence with me, life for all seems to get better, and when I don't, life for all seems to get worse: I must renounce greed to benefit others, and when I do, and when I renounce any possible concept of a merit, even the possibility of that it might benefit all this way, generally things get better. But it's that last part that takes effort. As I said, the minute we think we're getting something out of the deal, we probably are, and any merit associated with such charity evaporates. So we have to direct our mind away from the "me" that wants to get something out of every deal, no matter what, in my experience. And we, in my experience, have to keep doing this, because that little "me" is absurdly persistent.

In fact it all takes effort, and it denigrates both Buddhism and the other religion to trivialize these differences.

As I said at Danny Fisher's blog:

To Christians such as John Ratzinger/Pope Benedict, our religion is "defective," because we do not adhere to Christian (and specifically Catholic) dogma.

On the other hand, not out of hatred, not out of slander, but out of honest observation we should acknowledge that because Christianity and other religions present a distorted view of dukkha and its remedy, they are "defective" from the point of view of Buddhism.

If Buddhism were Christianity we would have Christian dogma and ritual and belief, and if Christianity were Buddhism they would have doctrines and practices of anatman, non-attachment, and such.

These are different religions. Buddhism is not another religion and vice versa. To say otherwise, I think disrespects and misrepresents others' religions.

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